Recently, the once-sleepy Downtown Gilbert has exploded with hip, if predictable, new eateries (so many that one wonders how they could all possibly co-exist peacefully). Amidst the whirl of flashy neon signage, it’s easy to overlook Art Intersection. Tucked in a second-floor suite just south of “restaurant row,” the gallery and education center offers lab facilities for both digital and analog photography, as well as classes in alternative darkroom techniques and ample exhibition space. The wood floors, brick walls, and metal ceilings lend the space a modern-industrial feeling. Like the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson but with a commercial twist, Art Intersection also displays and sells works from great twentieth-century American photographers like Imogen Cunningham and Wynn Bullock.
The current “All Art Arizona” is the annual exhibition juried by Art Intersection’s curatorial staff. Bursting at the seams with 86 works from 68 local artists, the objects span an array of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, fibers, mixed media, photography, and sculpture. A fun, if Nickelodeon-cute, “Viewer’s Choice Award” feature allows visitors to vote for their favorite works.
Surprisingly, for a show seeking to highlight local artists “from all experience levels,” only a handful of works use tired imagery; the majority are provocative in subject matter, material, and process. The exhibition begins with Robert Rice’s “Humanity 1-9,” a series of square-format black-and-white photographs that resemble an Instagram feed but arranged here in an altar-like configuration. High-contrast silhouettes of a cowboy, a statue, a shrouded woman, adolescent boys, an outstretched hand, and an empty chair could double as an inspiration board for a Terrence Malick film, evoking universal themes of nostalgia, family, and shared humanity. It is a bold start to a show that could have taken the safer route by leaning on some picturesque shots of the Grand Canyon.
Inside the gallery, technicolor, summer-themed images of desert suburbia feature pools and kids in swim goggles. In Jeannine McChesny’s digital C-print “Spring in Arizona,” a young girl in oversized sunglasses, a tiara and a polka dot one-piece puffs out her stomach with confidence; her pose could win her a gig as a Diane Arbus model. Some works are pure psychedelic abstractions, like Travis Rice’s “Flip Flop,” a dynamic composition of glittery, jagged geometric figures made of reflective vinyl and spray paint. Similarly, the bright watercolor “Sushi V” by Kimberly Harris is a horror vacui amalgam of tentacles and sashimi.
However, for those seeking quieter works of light and shadow that take their cue from nature, this exhibition will not disappoint. In “Sonoran Bobcat” Alexandra Bowers burns the delicate details of a feline skull onto wood. Camden Hardy’s pinhole camera print of the sun resembles an enlarged microscopic slide that vibrates with energy like buzzing bees. Joshua Gutierrez provides a pair of cinematic, haunting photographs of shrouded figures poised in a wooded forest and under a porch. Vicky Stromee’s inkjet prints on aluminum feature ethereal wisps of clouds and fog in a vast open meadow.
In “Don Juan #XX,” Mariana Bartolomeo uses a process called Chromoskedasic Sabattier; Greek for “color by light scattering,” it involves a unique darkroom technique that fixes the image through various photographic solutions. Bryan David Griffith employs burned petroleum and wax on panel for the solar-themed “Penumbra 9 and 10.” Other works are particularly Arizona-based, such as Samantha Schwann’s photographic prints of a Phoenix monsoon and a haboob.
Some works seem like incongruous one-offs, but they keep each other company in a back corner: a neon red circle glows like an ominous doomsday button beside a graffiti-style hippopotamus, its mouth full of tentacles, poised to devour a hammerhead shark (a work that instantly recalls the freaky Hokusai print of Mad Men’s final episodes). Jason Chakravarty’s sculptural work of blown glass, “Burt’s Baking Soda Blues,” sits alone as a strangely icy snow globe construction.
In Steve Homol’s “Inveigle,” a female model, photographed from the neck up, wears a necklace of mousetraps and floats in an azure background, seemingly inspired by fashion-photography and surrealism. A visitor favorite is Beth Shook’s “Alternate Endings,” made from clay, wood and found objects; on one panel, a woman’s outstretched arm dangles an apple above the nose of a German Shepherd, forever trapped in another panel inches away from the fruit.
While bright neon works clamor for attention in the crowded galleries of All Art Arizona, it is the understated, ethereal works that steal the show, which is predictably strongest in its photography offerings. Certainly not to be missed, the exhibition closes July 18.